This article is coming at you on the heels of an exciting new format. As expected, this past weekend showed us that a solid aggro (mono-Red) deck is usually the way to go to start a format off right. I saw a lot of exciting decks this weekend, and I’m probably most excited about Todd Anderson’s Illusions list. So, what does this new format mean for us, the traders? It means a new set of prices to memorize and constantly update—plus, the challenge of dumping what cards you can before they lose value after the initial hype. This week, I will be discussing the process of trading before, at, and after the prerelease weekend. It is very important to stay on top of your game as a trader, and that is never truer than during these few weeks.
Before the flurry of excitement of a prerelease, there are a few things that will prepare you well for a weekend of positive trading. The first, and probably the most important, is to study the spoiler. Everything else comes from this information, so make sure you read it and memorize it; this is your bible. Learning which cards are sleepers and which cards you should dump is only the beginning. In addition to the cards within the set, you must also understand which cards interact with those cards across a multitude of formats. Knowing what sleepers exist outside of the set is just as important as knowing the cards within. Cards like Glissa, the Traitor and Myr Superion are solid pickups when you see a card like Heartless Summoning spoiled. If you aren’t particularly good at finding interactions on your own, comb the Internet—if it exists, someone has likely found it. From there, decide what you believe has true potential and invest in those cards in the weeks leading up.
Once the prerelease rolls around, the traders turn their focus to the newer cards. Know and understand the presale prices; don’t guess what a card is worth. Instead, use that knowledge to your advantage. Though most presale prices are inflated, they make for a relatively good start in understanding the beginning value of a card. Look for the cards that are undervalued, such as Stromkirk Noble and Heartless Summoning, and target those cards during the weekend. In addition to understanding what is underpriced, realize what is overpriced due to hype, and unload those while the demand is still there. Laboratory Maniac may be a cute card, but given time, it will likely end up in the bulk-rare box with the rest of the fodder. In addition to picking up the new gems and dumping the fake diamonds, now is the time to let go of some of your older cards that you picked up based on speculation in the previous weeks. Those ten Levelers you bought at a dollar each are unlikely to hold much value, so dump them while you still can. I don’t recommend selling everything off at this point—just the cards you feel may be flops. Hold the real gems for a few weeks, and give the format some time to adjust. Move in once a few events are in the books and the prices have begun to inflate based on standings.
The most challenging part comes over the course of the next few weeks. This is the point we’re at now. As the results from top-level events start rolling in, we turn our attention to the change from perceived prices to actual prices. This may sound like a simple task; I mean, really, what is there to unloading some cards at higher values . . . right? The problem comes in determining the future of each card you have stocked up. This week, Stromkirk Noble took a huge jump from the $2 to $3 range up to $10-plus. When we see a jump like that, we have to evaluate whether the value can hold over the course of time, or whether now is the ideal time to dump the card in question. In the case of Stromkirk Noble, I believe he has hit his peak, and I will be unloading every copy I have before the hype from mono-Red’s dominance this past weekend fades. With any new format, as I mentioned before, aggro is usually the deck to beat right off the bat, which, in turn, drives the cards within that deck up in price. As good as the deck is, though, it is very linear, and is certainly is no Caw-Blade. With this in mind, it’s best to unload all of the pieces you may have now before the inevitable metagame forms.
Liliana also saw a huge rise this weekend—doubling in price from $30 to $60. This is slightly harder to evaluate than a card like Stromkirk, since she has begun to see Legacy play as well as Standard play. As everyone knows, cards that break into Legacy tend to hold their value far better than those that don’t. So, we come to the question . . . hold or dump? Let’s look at the facts. She’s a mythic, meaning there is really no ceiling on her price. She is also a ’walker, meaning she demands a price tag for her playability in a range of formats, going all the way from the kitchen table to Legacy. She doesn’t fit into every deck that plays Black, meaning she is no Jace, the Format Sculptor. With all of this information in mind, I would have to advise dumping her now. The key is the fact that she is far too narrow to continue to see such a high price tag. Although she is a great ’walker, I don’t believe she is format-defining as of yet. I believe the correct decision, at this point, is to drop her if you can find a solid trade at $60-plus, and then reacquire her as she drops. I would certainly make sure that I have some in stock before the next set hits; we are only one set into a graveyard-based block, after all.
So, which cards should we be looking to keep for the moment? I would suggest keeping anything in the Humans archetype for now; eventually, that deck will hit. In addition to Humans, I would advise picking up at least your personal sets of the Illusions cards. That deck has a lot of potential, given that it did so well with very little testing in an undefined metagame. As everyone’s eyes are turned to the big Tier 1 decks, look for the sleepers that still have a lot of potential. At the top of my list, I have Grand Architect. This guy is far too cheap at the current $2 price tag—pick him up now, before he finds a real home and triples in price. In addition to Architect, I would keep on the lookout for Hero of Bladeholds. Given the lack of performance last weekend, I expect to see people outing these at $6 to $7, which is a steal for such a powerful mythic. Necrotic Ooze showed up this weekend with some pretty interesting interactions involving Grimgrin and a large number of what are currently bulk rares, such as Pentavus. Picking up Ooze at a buck or so seems like a solid plan; I wouldn’t invest too much into the other cards, given their overwhelming availability, but if you wanted to grab a few copies of Grimgrin at under $5, that’s not a bad choice, either. The last card I want to mention is Moorland Haunt. Although it has already risen in price as a result of its play in Illusions, I feel that this card still has some time to grow. I saw some copies showing up in the Legacy portion of the tournament, acting both as an outlet to produce attackers and as bodies to carry Swords and shrink ’Goyfs. I don’t expect an immediate return right away from this card, but given time, it will certainly find a few homes.
This past weekend at SCG: Indy, I managed a few solid trades from the Box to Extended. I also managed to record the first large-dollar trade we have seen yet. I want input from you guys on whether you would find video trades helpful in the learning process, or if I should stick to the usual format. In this case, I took a hit in order to acquire the dual, but that is fairly typical when you are trading up.
It should also be mentioned that the prices used in the trade were “in” prices. The fellow I was trading with, Dan, is also a floor trader, and, when we deal together, we find it easier to use those prices, since our business models are very different otherwise. I know this video doesn’t explain much about the trade, but I wanted to get it in there anyway and see what you guys thought. In the future, I would like to show a trade along with prices on-screen. And then, after the trade, I’d include a recap of the trade and why I made each decision. If this sounds like something you would like to see, let me know in the comments.
−4 Beast Within 1.99
−1 Jace's Archivist 2.49
+3 Creepy Doll 0.99
+2 Undead Alchemist 0.99
+1 Skirsdag High Priest 1.49
+1 Endless Ranks of the Dead 0.99
+1 Evil Twin 0.99
+1 Conflux 1.49
+1 Narcomoeba 3.99
Although this trade did come out in my favor, it is still a very even trade, as I am giving up playable uncommons for what seems to be a pile of trash. However, in a quest to complete sets, it is best to use cards like Beast Within to fill in the bulk spots rather than sacrificing a high-dollar rare for a large number of the bulk cards needed.
Well, that’s all I have this week. Join me next week for another edition of Box to Extended. I am going to try to move that dual land this weekend, in order to show firsthand what can be accomplished on both the uptrades and downtrades of a single card. Until next week, let me know what you guys would like to read about, and whether you like the idea of video trades.
This would be a very good week to leave a comment either in the comments section or on my Twitter feed.